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Nick Clegg: Facebook has ‘a lot more work to do’ to tackle self-harm content | Science & Tech News

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Facebook communications boss Sir Nick Clegg has admitted the social network has “a lot more work to do” to combat content that promotes self-harm.

The former Liberal Democrat leader, who turned his back on politics in October to take up the role of head of global affairs and communications at the tech giant, addressed the issue during a speech in Brussels.

Sir Nick, 52, used his first major address since joining Facebook to discuss major issues the company has faced over the past year – including fake news, the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and a mass security breach.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Ima
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Mark Zuckerberg was personally involved in hiring Sir Nick

More recently, the company has been told it must “purge” its platforms of content related to suicide and self-harm after a father accused social media platforms of playing a part in his daughter taking her own life.

Molly Russell was 14 when she was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017. She had viewed material related to anxiety, self-harm and suicide on apps including Facebook-owned Instagram.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had written to a number of internet companies to remind them of their duty to act, and Sir Nick acknowledged Facebook has to address the issue.

Molly Russell
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Molly Russell was 14 when she was found dead in her bedroom

The former deputy prime minister said Facebook was entering a new phase of “reform, responsibility and change”, but added it should not be alone in making ethical or political decisions about what should be allowed on social media.

He said: “Everyone has a role in this. Facebook doesn’t have all the answers. But nor do governments or regulators either. We must learn from each other and work together.

“I know there are few debates that are as important as this. The time is ripe to bring together the best ideas from Europe, from Silicon Valley and beyond, to set the rules for an internet that works for all.”



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Tech giants may have to ‘break up’

Sir Nick also used his speech to defend the use of data and advertising by Facebook, insisting that users would find the latter preferable to a subscription-based model.

Regarding user data, Sir Nick said privacy was a “fundamental right” and a “guiding principle” for a company that has spent much of the past year trying to bat away criticism about its use of personal information.

Ahead of his speech, the Irish data protection commissioner called Facebook in for an “urgent briefing” after it confirmed plans to integrate the Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.

The plan – reportedly spearheaded by founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg – would see the company combine data collection on the hundreds of millions of people using its separate platforms around the world.

It could potentially bring the company into conflict with strict EU laws on how companies handle personal data.

Facebook and WhatsApp
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Facebook wants to merge its three major platforms

Sir Nick acknowledged that Facebook had become the “poster child” for data-driven business, but said the issue was not unique to it and urged people not to forget the advantages that data sharing can bring.

His speech was criticised by MP Damian Collins, who chairs the House of Commons committee that has been looking into the role of social media companies regarding elections, data sharing and other issues.

“Nick Clegg has clearly already drunk the Facebook Kool-Aid,” he tweeted.

“He speaks about the ‘serious legal and ethical obligations’ that Facebook has. It’s a shame that Facebook has failed to meet these time and time again. This is all too little, too late.”

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